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Blog posts of '2017' 'March'

Tastes & Traditions: Bacon & Bourbon

Bacon and bourbon pairing

Tastes & Traditions

Bacon & Bourbon

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Beautiful Marriage of Bacon & Whiskey

In the rapidly evolving world of modern cuisine, few dual ingredients have truly redefined the term, “perfect pairing” like bacon and whiskey. Each with their own respective rich gustative histories, bacon and whiskey both boast fanatic followings and a deep pride in preparation. Bacon’s surprising origins story combined with its thriving popularity amongst millennials has arrested the attentions of chefs worldwide, impacting menu innovation to an astonishing degree. In similar fashion, whiskey’s complex and multi-national history, while steeped in tradition, has inspired an excitement for invention throughout the cooking community. Whether as an absolutely delectable duo or as equally strong individual ingredients, bacon and whiskey are the veritable new frontier of finely crafted food.

Bacon with apples and bourbon in exoglass

Be it breakfast, brunch, or burgers, bacon has made its way into the modern palate with the utmost ubiquity. With a history tracing back to ancient China, bacon, or “bacoun” as it was originally called in Middle English, was the term originally used for all types of cured pork. And while the name stems from a melange of cultures and languages - the French “bako”, old High German “bakko”, Old Teutonic “backe”, to name a few - the one universally held value of the meat is its blend of lean, flavorful belly meat and buttery, luxurious fat. Chefs who embrace bacon tend to seek unexpected ways to incorporate it as an accent to both the savory and the sweet flavors of a variety of types of dishes.

Flames over copper Matfer sugar pan

With a legacy as diverse and regionally-influenced as wine, whiskey attracts those who appreciate wood-barrel aging and the task of distinguishing subtle differences of flavor. And while an appreciation and understanding of whiskey has long been heralded as a sign of tasteful sophistication, the prospect of eating food with whiskey - let alone cooking with it - was historically frowned upon. The Scottish - whiskey heroes according to many - were the first to widely practice cooking with whiskey.

As chef imaginations continue to warm to the notion of including whiskey as an ingredient, use of the liquor has become increasingly diverse - whiskey continues to pop up in innovative stir fries, marinades and glazes, fruit sauces and fillings, and even in some updated renditions of French flambé preparations. The clever ability of whiskey as a flavor profile is its sweet as well as savory notes which are often used to bring out both elements in complementing ingredients.

Chef Bruce Kalman carefully plates the topping

When it comes to bacon and whiskey together, things are really heating up. Trendy brunch menus fall to the popular wayside if not inclusive of a whiskey-cured bacon flight, a bacon-infused whiskey cocktail, or better yet - a smoked whiskey syrup-drenched stack of bacon pancakes and/or waffles. Additionally, bacon burgers are now seeing additions such as whiskey-reduced chutneys and whiskey-infused mustards to accent the pork’s fruitier notes.

When asked his opinion on the current hype around pairing bacon and bourbon specifically, Chef Bruce Kalman responded by saying, “I don’t find it to be hype, it’s a fact; bacon and bourbon go really well together due to their flavor profiles - smokey, sweet, salty always pairs well with barrel-aged bourbon. And when you cook the alcohol out of bourbon, it has a sweet, rich flavor to it, that is incredibly unique.”

Flames over copper Matfer sugar pan

So while both bacon and whiskey have stood on their own for quite some time, they have come together to widely shared enthusiasm as die-hard partners in the latest and greatest of savory as well as sweet taste-pairing and inventive, contemporary cooking. Read more in this month's featured chef spotlight with Bruce Kalman.

Bacon and bourbon pairing

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Matfer Prep Chef, Exoglass® Baba Molds, Bourgeat Copper Sugar Pan, Exoglass® Spoon Red Master Chef Series and Exoglass® Sieve Strainer.

Chef Spotlight: Bruce Kalman

Chef Bruce Kalman

Chef Spotlight

Bruce Kalman

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bruce Kalman’s Northern Italian cooking style embraces the diverse and abundant produce of California. He creates exquisitely balanced flavor profiles meant to warm the soul at his restaurant UNION in Pasadena, CA and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market in L.A.’s Grand Central Market. His commitment to indigenous ingredients goes beyond the farmers’ market to build strong connections with local providers, which keeps the operations’ carbon footprint low, supports the local economy and connects diners to high quality vegetables, meats and cheeses straight from the source.

Chef Bruce Kalman using Matfer Prep Chef

Why did you choose to make a sweet dish? Do executive chefs typically know how to make dessert?

As a savory chef, I enjoy making sweets from time to time; throughout the course of my career, I rarely had a pastry chef, so I made a lot of pastries myself at my restaurants. This dessert in particular combines sweet with savory bacon, sage and pink peppercorns, which provides a nice balance.

Chef Bruce Kalman using Matfer Prep Chef

Chef Bruce Kalman using Matfer Prep Chef

With this recipe you used the Matfer Bourgeat Exoglass® Baba Molds and the Prep Chef to core and slice the apples. What do you like about them?

The Exoglass molds are fantastic. They’re lightweight and completely non-stick which is so important when you’re baking. And they transfer heat really well, so my upside down cakes had a nice, crisp outer edge. The Matfer Prep Chef is awesome! I am a huge proponent of using a knife for pretty much everything, but this beautiful beast is super sharp, well designed and simple to use. It’s also easy to disassemble and clean. On most cutters, you have to manually lift the handle back up, so I love how the double-sided handle and springs force the pusher back up – that’s such a great feature.

Flames over copper Matfer sugar pan

At UNION, you’ve really become known for your handmade pastas. What do you attribute this passion for Italian food to?

My introduction to making a lot of fresh pasta was during my time at Spiaggia in Chicago with Paul Bartolotta. He was all about refined, simple Tuscan cooking packed full of flavor. For me its kind of like a song with a melody that you can’t get out of your head no matter how hard you try. Then you hear another song and its gone, but inevitably it always comes back because Its been buried in your subconscious all along. Fresh pasta and Italian-influenced cooking is that damn song to me! I love the soul, the flavors, the overall concept of cooking with the most amazing ingredients that are local and indigenous. Italian cooking is extremely challenging as it is so simple. Its cooking without a net, so everything you do has to be perfect. I love to cook low and slow ragu, stew, braise, roast, all of it. It’s a vehicle that transports emotion from your heart through the food on the plate to the guest eating it.

Bruce Kalman

Chef Bruce Kalman using copper sugar pan and exoglass

Sourcing from local partners is very important to you. How did that come about?

I go back to the values that most other countries in the world have. They cook with indigenous ingredients that are at their peak in season. The flavor and quality of these ingredients is unsurpassed. You can’t compare a peach ripened on the vine within 100 miles and harvested the day before you buy it versus one that is ripened on a truck or in a gas house and sits in a warehouse for who knows how long. That is the basis of the food I cook. “Shit in, Shit out” is what I was always taught. If you want to cook the best food, it requires the best ingredients. Moving to southern California, I am like a kid in a candy store. It is the most interesting place to be when it comes to sourcing ingredients. We purchase olive oil from a small olive ranch. We buy produce that I have never even heard of before. Our grain and polenta are freshly milled every week, and so on. The seafood is incredible, sustainable and fresh out of the water within a day or two of receiving it. You can’t beat that!

Exoglass ready to go in the oven

Exoglass ready to go in the oven

You’re recognized for using the whole pig in making porchetta. Why is this important to you?

For many reasons. First, it has to do with being respectful to the animal. I want my guests to trust me, and using whole animals is a big step in the right direction towards being fully sustainable. It also means that I have control over all of my ingredients – knowing who raised them and how, what they ate and what kind of life they lived is really important. It’s even important to me to buy whole pigs for ground meat for Knead, so I know its fresh and single origin, meaning who knows how many pigs contributed meat to a bag of stew meat you buy from a purveyor. I’m also a huge proponent of supporting small, local businesses.

Savory dessert in exoglass

You wear a No Kid Hungry bracelet. Can you speak to your involvement and what it means to you?

No Kid Hungry is an amazing organization. I am honored to be so heavily involved cooking dinners, contributing to the galas and being the chef chair for Taste of the Nation Los Angeles, which supports No Kid Hungry. It’s not just about providing meals to young children that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, but its also about educating them to understand what good food is, to take on responsibility and to learn how to eat right. I had the opportunity to visit an elementary school in an underprivileged neighborhood in L.A. last year, and I saw how all the hard work and dedication that everyone puts in pays off in a huge way. I sat in the classroom with the kids as they were having breakfast, and got to see the smiles on their faces, which made it all worth it.

Chef Bruce Kalman plating his dish

Chef Bruce Kalman presents his dish

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Matfer Prep Chef, Exoglass® Baba Molds, Bourgeat Copper Sugar Pan, Exoglass® Spoon Red Master Chef Series and Exoglass® Sieve Strainer.